Alaska Travel Adventures Epilogue

October 20, 2014

Hello Gail,

You don't know me, but I came across your website, Alaska Travel Adventures, while doing research for a book I'm involved (with others) in writing. The book is a bio about Oliver Cameron, who moved to Alaska in the early 1950's. In 1955 he was hired by Gene Joiner to help move a huge piece of jade from Jade Mountain to Kotzebue, where it was to have been sent to Juan Peron. Oliver apparently welded the sled that finally got the job done. The photo of you standing on that piece of jade is the only one I've come across. Neither the family nor other historical archives seem to have any photos. If you know of others, I would appreciate the info.

Would you be willing to grant us permission to use your photo, with attribution? It would be a nice addition to the book. While this is a family project, there is also involvement by the Cold Climate Housing Research Center in Fairbanks, and a museum display of Oliver's tools and crafts near the University. Currently chapters are being posted on a web site (olivercameron.org), but the book may eventually be published.

Thank you for any help you can provide!

Margaret Mills

P.S. Hi again, Gail! Think it will work best to just add to this letter and let you use what you want in your book.

My information comes from a self-published account by Lorene Cameron (wife of Oliver), “More Than a Story.” The Cameron family arrived in Kotzebue the summer of 1955. Oliver, looking for work, was visited by Gene Joiner, locally known as The Jade King, and asked to weld a sled for him. He had tried to bring out the 20-ton block of jade for several years, and had broken a sled one year and broken a cat another in the attempt. The tundra, with grass clumps, was difficult to pull a heavy block over. Oliver took about a week to weld the sled, then helped Gene move the block. It had to be sledded across tundra, then put on a barge in the Kobuk River and hauled downriver to Kotzebue. I’m not sure why not Juneau, except hauling by barge and tug down the Kobuk to Kotzebue, then out to a ship in Kotzebue sound was the usual method of moving supplies.

Lorene quotes an account in The Nome Nugget (I have not been able to verify this clipping or find date, issue, etc. Have contacted the Nome Nugget, but no answer, and cannot find archives in the research libraries – at least not so far.)

20 TON JADE

A huge block of genuine jade weighing more than 20 tons reached the arctic port of Kotzebue last week after a five year 200 miles trip from the mine at Jade Mt. The owner, Imperial Jade Co. of Kotzebue, who operates the mine, has kept the huge block of gemstone intact as it is by far the largest piece of fine jade ever found. Although containing approximately 4,000,000 ring sets, the block will not be used for this purpose. Imperial Jade, which exports jade to all parts of the world, feels that its size and quality would ruin the jade jewelry market for all time.

This block, maximum measurements 5X5X16 feet, will be sold for the purpose of carving into an outstanding monument. For the time being it will be kept in storage by Gene Joiner at Kotzebue. At the time of this writing, it still sits in Kotzebue.

I’m guessing this was written sometime in late summer, 1955. Lorene says that Gene thought he had it sold to Juan Peron, but the deal fell through. The Peron government fell in September, 1955, I believe, so that would have quashed the deal.

I have been unable to find out what happened to the block, or who owns it now. I doubt it is still there. And no idea on who the sculptor would have been.

Best wishes,
Margaret Mills

Hi again Gail, I got a little more info from my Alaskan friend (Oliver's daughter) on the jade block. She remembers her mother talking about someone in China or elsewhere in Asia attempting to buy it. Also, her husband recalls helping load a big block of jade onto a barge in 1969 bound for - probably - Seattle. His sister stayed with Gene Joiner in the 70's, and they plan to ask if she knows anything about it. Not very definite, but a bit more.


Hi Margaret, Sounds suspicious, going to Seattle. I'm sure the 20-ton jade block made its way to China and was carved into millions of tiny cabochons, sold for thou$ands each. Thanks for the latest info.

Gail




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